A sleepless night leads directly to a sluggish morning and a lackluster day often marked by crabbiness, crankiness and irritability. What you might not know is that one of the leading contributors to a poor night’s sleep is what you eat or drink before bed. To ensure a positive and productive day by way of a full night of fulfilling rest, make sure that your pre-bedtime meals exclude these foods.
The stuff that powers you through your day can just as easily sabotage your night. If you’re a coffee drinker, Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., registered dietitian, writes for Food Network that you should leave at least six hours between your last cup and whenever you plan to turn in. This enables you to have more restful sleep by giving the energizing effects of caffeine the proper amount of time to wear off.
Although dark chocolate is full of health-benefitting antioxidants, it’s also quite rich with caffeine. According to Amanda Gardner, writing for Health Magazine, dark chocolate’s combination of caffeine and calorie density make it prohibitive before hitting the hay.
She explains, “A Hershey’s special-dark bar has 20 milligrams of caffeine, about the same as half an ounce of espresso. Chocolate also contains theobromine, another stimulant that can increase heart rate and sleeplessness.”
If your night is just not complete without chocolate, Olivia Tarantino and Perri O. Blumberg of Eat This, Not That! suggest either eating a reduced amount or eating it earlier in the evening. The earlier in the day you eat chocolate, the better you’ll be able to utilize the energy it provides.
A juicy bacon cheeseburger will satisfy a craving at dinner time, but it and any other foods packed with saturated fat and salt will effectively destroy your beauty sleep. Gardner writes that “fat stimulates the production of acid in the stomach, which can spill into your esophagus, causing heartburn.” This means that eating any foods with a high fat content too close to the time you would bed down is liable to keep you awake and in a state of discomfort.
Another junk food craving satisfier you should avoid before turning out the lights: pizza. According to Jennings, the tomato sauce on a pizza is acidic, which can lead to stomach issues that might keep you awake throughout the night.
The sleepiness you feel after enjoying a glass of wine or sipping on a cocktail during dinner might lead you to think that it’s an effective sleep aid. Quite the contrary: Drinking before bed is as likely as anything else to sabotage your sleep and have you waking up with a headache irrespective of how much you drink.
Jennings writes that “regularly consuming alcohol (especially before bedtime) can worsen your sleep quality,” noting that it can also increase the frequency with which you would need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and during the following morning. Gardner cites the results of a study that found women who had a mixed drink before bed saw increased wakefulness, reduced sleep time and diminished quality of sleep.
Sugar and spice
Perhaps you were the kind of kid who, after your mom and dad went to sleep, snuck into the kitchen and cracked into the Fruit Loops, Cocoa Krispies or Fruity Pebbles for a late-night breakfast. Back then you couldn’t have known that these cereals were little more than a bunch of sugar mixed with milk. It wasn’t good for your sleep then, and given that you’re now an adult with responsibilities, it’s arguably even worse to do today.
Jennings writes that “sugary cereals digest rapidly in your system, so the spike in blood sugar could throw off some of your sleep hormones, and low-fiber diets are linked to lighter sleeps.”
Just as a fatty cheeseburger could prompt a case of heartburn, so could your favorite spicy foods, according to Jennings. Your taste buds may appreciate the kick from spicy food but your stomach and your sleep-needing body will not. Gardner cites a study from Australia that found men who ate spicier foods during dinner had more difficulty falling asleep than those who ate blander fare.
A good night’s rest makes it possible to have a productive, fulfilling and generally more positive day. Don’t let the wrong foods make your day less than what it should be by negatively impacting your sleep. Be aware of what you’re ingesting close to bedtime, and, if possible, avoid eating or drinking immediately before bed.